Genius Characters By Normal People?

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Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Malia on February 11th, 2010, 9:43 pm

I've watched the movie 'The Silence of the Lambs' today in class and (apart from the fact that I was thrilled by the story and protagonists) it got me to thinking ... Would we, some of the best roleplayers and writers, be able to create and play characters that are more intelligent than us?

In 'The Silence of the Lambs', there is an imprisoned psychopath who has been a psychiatrist for many years and has learned to read the minds of people through observing their body language and speeking patterns in such a way that he can sense certain complexes and traumas that have happened to them in the past. He uses this information together with his rhetoric skill to control their minds and make them do anything for him. (Well, not exactly anything, but he manages to talk a female FBI agent into getting him a better, less secured cell from which he is able to escape later.)

I was particularly fascinated by his 'genius' personality and thought that it would be cool to play such a character. But then ... Would we be able to play a 'genius' (defining this term as in the movie I mentioned above) even if we had lower grades than A's and our IQ wasn't extraordinarily high? Would we be able to sneak into a genius' mind and foresee how they would speak, think and act just by using our writing and imagination skill? Would that be enough to feel like a genius (at least icly) or at least pretend as if we felt like it, and, most importantly, would it look realistic?

Maybe I should just give it a try, but I'm curious about what you guys think about that topic. (Please ignore the psychopath part though, I want to focus on the genius part - whether it comes with an evil or good alignment doesn't matter to me.)
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Aneira Haimati on February 11th, 2010, 9:57 pm

'Silence of the Lambs' is my favorite movie of all time. And, as you've pointed out, one of the very reasons I love it so much is because of how brilliantly Anthony Hopkins pulls off Hannibal Lecter - he's surprising, chilling, eccentric...

Basically, he's genius enough to be totally insane (whether he is good or evil). And that's fun.

To give you my opinion, I think it's totally possible to create and play a genius/insane sort of character, even if you aren't one yourself. I attempted one of these characters in my RP history, and it was an amazing experience. I think when you go to an extreme in your RP and step out of your comfort zone, you learn so much, you grow, and you surprise yourself.

I've been wanting to try out a similar character again, sometime. If you have the chance, I'd recommend trying it! It would be fun to play with one, for certain.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Ashivirsthargon on February 11th, 2010, 10:14 pm

This is an interesting topic to me, because you can expand the principle:

Can someone convincingly RP a character who has personal characteristics that the player doesn't? Can a jokester be played by someone who has no sense of humor? Can a sexy vamp be played by someone with no sense of seduction?

I'm hilarious and have a well-defined sense of seduction, so these are hypotheticals for me, of course, but you see what I mean. ;)

Personally, there are certain kinds of characters that I tend not to play just because I'm relatively sure I couldn't play them convincingly. They would be a cariacature. I don't have the personal characteristics to pull it off, and I would be trying desperately to portray those characteristics. What would come out in the end would be something unconvincing. Something over the top. Something that compensated too much for my own inability to put those characteristics of myself into the character. I admit, that may speak to my own level of RP skill than anything objective. I'm just speaking for myself.

Authors do create characters who are, sometimes, much more intelligent than they are, but at the same time, the author is in complete control of the story's events. The genius character can figure things out because the author has already figured them out. I think it would be a lot more difficult to portray a genius character in an environment you didn't fully control. I'd just... get things wrong too often. ;)
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Aneira Haimati on February 11th, 2010, 10:55 pm

That's a really good point, Ashivirsthargon. But I also think there is a place for caricature, as long as it's not completely shallow. Then again, a caricature is really only effective if the person is trying to create it, not doing it by accident because they can't pull it off.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Malia on February 13th, 2010, 11:03 am

Yes, I think that it's a very exciting experience to play someone different. I've found out that I feel most comfortable with characters I understand. I don't have to like them (guess that comes naturally after a while), but I have to understand why they do and think just so. Now the problem is that since I'm no genius myself how would I be able to understand them?

Ash, this is exactly what I mean. It leads me to the question of including ooc knowledge into threads which is, as you may know, not allowed. However, perhaps it's different if it suits the character's personality and knowledge base. I guess it is possible to play a character who knows more than others by using ooc knowledge ... for example a fortune teller knowing the past of another PC because the player read the character sheet before.

But honestly, that sounds like cheating to me and I'm not sure whether I really want to do that. ;)

Another option would be to learn as much as possible about writing patterns and how to assess the opponent's writing psychologically to get information about the character's personality and even background (like in the movie). Of course, that would be the direct way of becoming a genius oneself, a very time-consuming task, I suppose.

What option would you choose?
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Ashivirsthargon on February 13th, 2010, 3:20 pm

I think one thing you could do is establish a good level of OOC collaboration with the other people involved. I know it's not fun to script out every little detail, and I'm not suggesting doing it to that extent, but in this case, I think some agreement and working together OOCly could go a long way - whether we're talking about with Storytellers or other players or both.

First, you'd have to find someone willing to be outwitted. From what I can tell, most people on this board have enough appreciation for a good story to know that, sometimes, they have to RP "losing."

However, it won't be fun for anyone to RP consistently being out-thought by another PC, so you might offer some compromises. Perhaps your foe could "win" some encounters through sheer luck or raw unpredictability. In fact, such an event could be a great occasion for a real crisis and growth in your character - when their confidence in their own insight fails them for the first time.

To circle back to what I said earlier, I think the key to being able to do this feasibly is to establish a certain level of control over what happens next, and I think the best way to do that in an environment like this is to get the OOC cooperation of people also interested in the story.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Gossamer on February 13th, 2010, 7:14 pm

For myself, I do not think I could pull off genius in any way shape or form. Why? You have to sit in front of your keyboard and think of brilliantly intelligent things to do, say, want etc to help the PC come into their own and I know personally I don't think of brilliant things to do or say on a routine basis.

In some regards, I think you need to rp what you know. If you don't know something, you have to go learn all about it to write about it and not sound like an idiot.

Plus, in my experience, I've seen a lot of people try and play genius characters. Maybe the ones people here have had in the past weren't like this, but up until this point, all the characters who were genius level that I've seen broke one of my big writing rules. They 'told' us constantly that they were genius' ... rather than 'showed' us this fact. If your PC can't demonstrate their ingeniousness, then whats the point? I don't want to hear 'my pc is beautiful' over and over again, I want to see their beauty through their writing. I for one wouldn't be able to 'show' genius so I won't ever write genius. Besides, I love flawed characters that are just average intelligence.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Alistair deGrey on February 13th, 2010, 8:00 pm

It seems reminiscent of my constant plight as a gadgeteer. I'm not a gadgeteer in real life, when I started I knew nothing about making machines (Still not that great at it). Well, that and any situation where you have to feign knowledge reminds me of this. Its just a matter of research I suppose. Research real geniuses, find out their habits and methods of thinking. After enough exposure to the topic, you should be able to pull it off convincingly. This only applies to behaviors and skills though, not the plight of a genius character deducing things the player couldn't.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Gossamer on February 13th, 2010, 8:24 pm

See thats the thing.... researching how-to is fairly easy in this day and age. Trying to fake your way through genius level intelligence - something someone who's not a genius might have a hard time understanding - is tremendously difficult in my opinion.
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Re: Genius Characters By Normal People?

Postby Dhanya on February 27th, 2010, 9:11 am

I've met a few geniuses (maths and stats ones), I think it wouldn't be too bad trying to RP one. The most common aspect of a genius is that they are brilliant in their area of expertise and otherwise completely out of their element. I haven't read the original Sherlock Holmes novels but he's a good character to refer to. He has amazing insight into human behaviour and is capable of being charming but he doesn't connect with people. Throughout the course of the books he has no lovers, no wife and really only one true friend.

The best part about fantasy is that you have some control over knowledge of things that don't exist in real life. It's not really possible to fake being a master geneticist but it is possible to do so with a magician. I think you should give it a go but bear in mind that a person of such extraordinary intelligence isn't going to be able to talk too easily to people that don't understand them, which is difficult since no one does.

They're also great because they don't have to be over-powered, a genius can be beaten by someone that understands their ego or is capable of working around their area of expertise. The mathematicians I know are often socially awkward but completely brilliant if you get them talking about their work.
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